• Gaming,  Writing

    The Art of Personal Writing

    I’ve had this blog, in one form or another going back to the days of my Greymatter-powered blog, since very early 2002. I remember that because I started it before I got married and moved to the UK as a way of documenting everything both confusing and wonderful along the way. I used to write in it religiously, sometimes several posts a day, and now a month can go by before I post anything. It’s the curse of our times, our communication becomes constant and shallow, updates rather than deep thoughts.

    I know, I sound like an old fart. I am, I admit it…and get offa my goddamned lawn.

    Anyway, one of the things that I loved, especially since I discovered MMOs with the advent of Vanilla Warcraft, was gaming blogs. Raiding was hard, gearscore and min-maxing didn’t exist yet (at least in the sense that it does now) and every bit of advice or help or commiseration was appreciated. We shared a love of something wonderful, of challenges overcome with a team of likeminded folks in fantastically faraway lands. I miss those days.

    If you do as well, or if you’ve never tried your hand at blogging before, Belghast of Tales of the Aggronaut has a wonderful thing in August. Learn more here.

  • Personal,  Writing

    Lists and Terror

    I’m a great list maker and planner. As you can see from my previous New Years Eve resolutions, however, I’m not always a successful completer of lists. Nevertheless (refusing to learn from past failures) I now have a list of projects that I want to work on as time opens up prior to the end of the year:

    1: Art. New Styles. New Skillz.

    As a book cover artist I get a bit tired of doing the same type of covers, and I’m sure that readers must get tired of seeing the same types of covers over and over again. This has led to some of the stress over the past year and dissatisfaction with work. I know authors, with everything riding on the success or failure of a new book, want something that they know readers in the past have liked. I know that, and I do understand it…but each time I get a brief for an urban fantasy cover that needs a tough-but-beautiful heroine with great hair wearing leather and jeans, standing in an urban landscape with magic effects on her hands or on her weapon of choice I feel tired. That’s not to say that I don’t love the hell out of that type of book, I really do love me a kickass female hero. And yet…I think we can all do something a bit different.

    Part of the problem is stock. Most commercial stock images are outtakes from fashion or advertising shoots, modelling portfolio shots and so on. The models are pretty, but there are a lot of “model-y” poses (as one would expect). Action shots are really, really difficult to find and it’s even more difficult to find ones that haven’t already been used since everyone else is looking for those as well.

    Now, lacking the finances to set up a studio again and shoot my own models, I’ve been looking at CGI models for bodies and costume. I’ve used a lot of these in the past, and when paired with a real model’s face and hair it’s difficult to tell that they were digital, especially when overpainted. This is one option for more interesting model shots with more life and action to them. Acquiring the 3D modelling skills needed to create the figures, skin them, and light them properly is a bit more difficult, more of a high learning curve.

    So, that’s one thing.

    2: Writing = Panic Mode.

    For several years now I’ve been trying to clear the spare time to do some writing. The Clockwork Bluebird, my first project, needs re-working with a new ending and I have the sequel partially written. I have other projects (very different ones!) also pulling at me for attention. I am, I GODDAMN AM, going to devote some time to these so that I can get enough momentum going in order to not fall by the wayside in despair after I go back to work after the holidays. I’ll probably never be a great writer, maybe not even a good and professional one…but I think I could not embarrass myself. I want the chance to try, anyway. I want to tell these stories as best as I can.

    1. The Tatterdemalion Dancer. Clockpunk-fantasy sequel, underground carnival which is also a war between the Fae courts. A Goose Girl/Red Shoes mashup. :D
    2. A twisted Alice tale of madness: Suckerpunch meets Alice in Wonderland.
    3. My pooka story.

    That shit is hella scary.

    3. The Rest.

    Other projects include work on the various cosplay outfits that I have littering the front room, which I’ve turned into a workroom. I want to put more time into my photography (and as a side note be able to use more of my own shots rather than having to buy so much stock!).

    So…yeah. The list. Lists are terrifying.

     

    Postscript: A video which captures The Tatterdemalion Dancer perfectly. <3

    LE CIRQUE FEERIQUE Reel from Company XIV on Vimeo.

  • Writing

    NaNoWriMo On! Off. On…

    Writer's BlockI had a project that I was really excited about doing for NaNoWriMo. I’ve been working nights and weekends, trying to clear the breathing room to do it. I’ve been researching and planning like crazy.

    And then…I realised that the idea, although something that I was incredibly excited about, was something that was going to need a lot more planning and outlining and beating the plot into shape. I wasn’t ready.

    So, yesterday (the day before the bloody thing starts!) I decided to go back to an older project that I at least had a plot outline for. Now, this is a project that I’d done a lot of work on and then somehow allowed two years to lapse without working on it. It also has a very complicated plot, interweaving and twisting an handful of fairytales together into a new story. I have pages and pages of plot points and timelines and character studies and a Scrivener project set up with empty chapters and scenes with intriguing captions like “Maia is betrayed” and “King of the Cats.” Interesting…except I have absolutely no idea what I intended to do there.

    AGGGHHHH!!!

  • Personal,  Writing

    My Life As A Ghost

    A few days ago I was getting ready to take a bath. It was afternoon, actually, as mornings in a drafty English house are too cold for me – I’m like a cat, I hate being either cold or wet. But anyway. Phil knocked on the door and said “I lost my job.” He was sitting on the stairs as though in shock, no surprise there. I turned off the tub and we both sat on the stairs, stunned.

    I still feel stunned, and it’s been difficult to work on anything or know how to move forward. We’ve been in a bizarre situation for a couple of years now and it dawns on me that I have been living very much like a ghost, drifting through the remnants of a life. After the beginning of the recession and the demise of Top Sekrit Projekt, I did take another job which turned out so badly that I still feel like someone suffering from PTSD. The environment was so toxic that I wanted to die every single day; I just wanted to go to sleep, fade into darkness and never wake up. I always had to though, even when each Sunday was ruined because my stomach was in knots knowing that Monday was coming. I was broken.

    Then I went freelance, and slowly built up a book cover art business – nothing that made any real money, of course, not enough to survive on, but at least I had something that I could say that I did. But I never actually became a real person again, not in any real sense. I barely left the house. I worked through my revised bucket list: I wrote the book I’d always dreamed of writing, and did a few small things. No real dreams, as we were now poor. There was no travel to exotic destinations, no running of the bulls, no survival treks through the desert.

    Are you real if no one ever sees you, talks to you? Sometimes it’s difficult to say for sure. Are you real if you don’t feel like a real girl?

    NaNoWriMo was a writeoff, and I haven’t written anything since. Too empty. We’re both looking for work, and I’ve been revising our business sites in hopes of either of us picking up freelance work. My technical skills are no longer current, and the thought of competing with 25-year-old boys for development jobs fills me with dread. We’ve discussed selling the house, we’ve talked about going back to the States, but there are no good choices to be made. I just feel empty, as insubstantial as a dust kitty. Drifting.

     

  • Art,  Writing

    NaNoWriMo: Slooooow

    I’ve been struggling to get back into writing, as it has been such a very long time since I’ve written anything. I’ve gone a month or so without doing a blog post, for gods’ sake. As of today, I’m under my target wordcount, but my words-per-day to finish on time is still under 2k/day, so that is entirely doable. So far, it’s been a bit painful and each target has been met after many agonised hours spent sitting at my desk, staring at Scrivener and asking why this all wasn’t more fun.

    What I don’t want to do is hit that 50k and trigger that “Yaay, I’ve won!” feeling, because it is very hard to continue past that point. I’m trying to think of this as a habit that I am setting which will continue month in and month out.

    I am glad that I’ve arranged a small hiatus from cover work, because if I had any pressure, much less the inhuman schedule that I had last year, I would have used it as an excuse to punk out. I know I would have.

    That said, this afternoon I did some personal artwork, and it felt fantastic. Here is “Crow Girl” – click for info about stock credit.

     

    crow_girl

  • Writing

    NaNoWriMo Jitters

    NaNoWriMo starts in (eeeeek!!!) two days. Am I ready? Not in the slightest, but I’m going to do it anyway. I am almost finished with covers, and the two that I am still finishing came in after I’d said that I was taking a break, so I was almost successful in clearing the time. However, I am in a much better space than I was last year, when I had too much work and stress and had a NaNo meltdown.

    I don’t have as complete an outline as I had the first time. There are a lot of plot holes and areas where I haven’t the slightest idea how I need to get from Point A to Point B…and that does worry me a bit. Being new to this writing thing, I attributed the relatively pain-free experience the first time due to the fact that I had a full chapter-by-chapter and scene-by-scene outline to work from. This time, I don’t. What I do have is:

    1. A general idea of what is going to happen – all main and secondary characters and their arcs from start to beginning to end. I have an environment that I am really excited about. I know at least some of the fairy tales that I will be twisting this time: The Goose Girl, The Red Shoes, and even a bit of Hellraiser (since when do really iconic fairy tales have to be old?). It wasn’t a coincidence that the family name is Lemarchand, by the way. ;)

    2. I have my place ready. We have the loan of a laptop from some very good friends and I bought a lap desk so I can work on the couch if I want, although when it arrived today I realised that the legs are much too tall. Scrivener has been installed and my project outline transferred over.

    3. I will have my energy drinks and breakfast food ready. Again, that was something that worked for me the first time – I am most creative in the early mornings, so I would get up by 6:00, have a proper breakfast with some protein, and then get to work. I have this OCD thing about drinking coffee that means I have to brush my teeth after drinking any (hey, it stains your teeth!) so I will live on Red Bull instead.

    4. I’ve been reading. Yeah, I always read, that’s what I do…but I’ve been reading writing books, good steampunk and middle grade novels, as well as some that I read for pure writing style (Anne Hoffman and Moonwise by Greer Ilene Gilman). Every year I re-read On Writing by Stephen King, which is kind of a ritual for me.

    Fingers crossed…

  • Writing

    I Am A Crisis

    I’ve always loved this commercial for the British Red Cross. Eerie, poignant and very unsettling, the soft-spoken hoodie girl and her dog raise the hairs on the back of my neck every time I see the ad.

     

     

    She would make a wonderful character in a book. There may already be a book or graphic novel with a similar character, but I can’t think of one that I’ve read personally. Can’t you see her as a character in an urban fantasy, walking through the darkness with her huge dog at her side? She isn’t unaware of what she does as she strolls through this backyard or trails a finger over that child’s window, but she was created to be a force in the world and that is what she does. It isn’t personal. She doesn’t harbor any personal ill will, and she loves children and families (never having had one of her own). She just is, and she is what she was created to be: the crisis waiting in the dark, perhaps one day for you.

    Someone write this, please, as I’d love to see how you run with it. Considering the problems that I have with my writing, I’ll never do it – I have stories planned enough to last me a lifetime. Go on, make her real and send her out into the dark with her dog.

  • Writing

    Launch Party: The Clockwork Bluebird Giveaway

    To show how excited I am about finally being able to say that The Clockwork Bluebird is alive (ALIVE, I TELL YOU…ALIIIIIIVE!!!) I’m having a giveaway. You can see details here. There is a rather nifty vintagey glass ball watch, a signed copy of the book, an ebook copy if that’s the way you rock, and a handmade steampunk journal. I’ve had this for ages, as you can see from the blog post that I wrote about creating it.

    Check it out and enter if you can!

     

    The Clockwork Bluebird Giveaway

  • Writing

    The Clockwork Bluebird

    Today is a book birthday, of sorts, as I finally published (to very little fanfare) the book that I have been working on for a couple of years. Not having any type of a platform, you understand, means that if it was a birthday party it would be one of those very sad ones where it’s just family and your one best friend and there are no hired clowns or pony rides. :)

    I’m not going to start spamming my Twitter feed with BUY MY BOOK NAO, THE BEST BOOK EVER!!! tweets…a good thing, too, as everyone that I know on Twitter is either a fellow gamer or someone that I’ve done cover work for in the past. If you see me indulging in obnoxious self-promotion just slap me down. Not in an over-the-top red wedding* style of course, but more as you would a inebriated friend who was making a tit of himself.

    That said, if you would like to send a link my way, or read it for a review, let me know. I’ll give you all the information that you need. If you want to review it, let me know and I’ll send you a copy. I have a few things for a giveaway, which I’ll be posting in a week or so. Until then…crickets. :D

    And now, back to the sequel…because I’m going to get a handle on this writing thing or die trying.

    BUY MY BOOK NOW, BEST BOOK EVER! IF YOU LIKED HARRY POTTER, STEPHEN KING, SHAKESPEARE, PABLO NERUDA OR TWILIGHT, YOU’LL LOVE THIS!

    Amazon US / Amazon UK

    *Wasn’t that the most entertaining meltdown on the interwebs EVER?

    PS: I do have to admit that there is a huge thrill in just seeing it out there on Amazon and everything. It seems all…real.

  • Writing

    Long Time Coming

    I come by my love of reading honestly, as when I was a kid my parents read to me all the time. Both of my parents were passionate readers and throughout my life my father and I shared a love of certain books and authors. The Travis McGee novels and Dick Francis were shared passions, and even when we couldn’t talk about much else (I was a horrible teenager) we could still talk about books. My mom and dad would take us to the library to check out our weekly armload of books, which was the high point of my little-kid week. We lived ten miles or so outside of town, and once they drove halfway home before realising that they’d left my youngest sister sitting in the little kids’ section. Good times. :)

    One of the books that my dad used to read to us when we were little was The Children’s Bluebird. The book had been his as a child and eventually was passed on to me; of course I lost it during my footloose early twenties when I was moving from city to city. I managed to lose a lot of things during that time. I always remembered that story, though, and have always wanted to write my own version of it. The original is a product of the era in which it was written; loaded with sentimentality and saccharin emotions it hides an extremely warped and twisted core. I wanted to write a version which stripped away the sentimentality and kept the twisted bits, a version updated and streamlined for more modern readers.

    Several years ago my mother died from complications associated with ALS. My father was diagnosed soon after with cancer, which started in the bladder and then spread all over, bowel and spine and so on. It was incurable, but he was strong – having been given a matter of months to live, he survived for two years. During that time I rather abruptly went freelance with my artwork and when NaNoWriMo rolled around decided to participate and finally write the book that I’d been thinking about for ages. It’s dedicated to him and although he was too sick to read it at the end, he did read the dedication. I’m thankful that I had a chance to at least put it in his hands before the end…he is such a huge part of who I grew up to be. He taught me about being brave and doing the right thing, even (or especially) when that is hard to do. He gave me my moral code and my honesty. Oh, sure, I’ve been a fuckup in the past, and will most probably be one again, but I I do try to be strong and do good in the world.

    So. Back to this book.

    The Clockwork Bluebird is a steampunk, or clockwork-punk, fairytale retelling of The Children’s Bluebird set in an alternate-universe Victorian England. The main characters, Maia and Tyler Lemarchand (every name has a meaning – I had fun with this) are the mixed-race children of an inventor and the daughter of the Moon; they get caught up in the middle of a clandestine war between the Fae Courts. There are goblin markets and black dire wolves, a gang of clockwork-limbed children called the Tatters that live in the lost Underground tunnels beneath the city and even a talking dog. Working on this was pure fun from start to finish and I hope that it is equally fun to read.

    I’ll post more about this later…mainly I just wanted to tell my father that I loved him. I miss you so much, Dad. And all of this is for you.